WHILE REPUBLICAN senators insist on prompt votes for every judicial nominee, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) has placed a "hold" on President Bush's nomination of Julie Finley as ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Mrs. Finley is well qualified. Like many ambassadorial appointees, she has been a major Republican fundraiser, but she has also been a strong and active advocate in Washington for the expansion of NATO, the integration of Turkey into the European Union and the spread of democracy to countries of the former Soviet Union. These are issues that would be central in her new post -- and issues that Mr. Brownback also has highlighted. Nevertheless, Mr. Brownback, a possible presidential candidate in 2008, as of last night was employing a parliamentary maneuver to block any Senate vote -- on the grounds that Mrs. Finley is pro-choice on abortion.
The move may please Republican antiabortion activists, who have launched a campaign against Mrs. Finley, demanding that the president withdraw her nomination. But the hold is repugnant, on both procedural and substantive grounds. If a filibuster is at best a controversial way of deciding policy, allowing a single senator to have effective say over whether to hold a vote on a particular presidential appointment would seem completely unacceptable.
More to the point, Mrs. Finley's opinions on abortion, whatever they may be, have nothing whatsoever to do with European security and democracy, peacekeeping in Chechnya, or the enforcement of arms control treaties, the main issues of concern to the OSCE. Mr. Brownback has in the past shared Mrs. Finley's enthusiasm for expanding NATO and promoting democracy in Eastern Europe. That he would slight those ideals and abandon a firm supporter of those causes bodes ill for his potential candidacy and for the next presidential election more generally.